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Shooting in Wisconsin

December 01, 2004 | Category:

Dear Hunter,

A very good friend of the family is a hunter. I bet he's spent over a million dollars over his life travelling and hunting. From Russia to points south. Plus the Taxidermy, yikes. The inside of his house is unreal. You've never seen anything like it... the heads, the antlers, the life-sized bear.

We visit him and his wife every year -I have known them all my life, and at 4 years old my son can point and tell you what is animal is what for the most part. He knows those walls pretty well.

And I feel safe with my son there. These are wonderful people, responsible and kind Yankees; third-generation friends.

Personally, I loathe guns. And I think what happened with Vang is an extreme tragedy. His response was criminal. He took human lives. He should suffer the punishment for his actions.

But the racisim that preceded it must be addressed. Wherever there is intimdation, fear - bullying. There will always be those who are triggered to a disproportional response. No excuses for what they do, we can't stop them. But we can adress the trigger. It is what we, as bystanders, CAN do in the face of this tragedy.

Just my 2 cents.

Thank you for commenting and for speaking your mind.


(click on the extended entry to read the original post)

On Sunday, a hunter killed 6 people and injured another 3 when he opened fire with with his semi-automatic (yes, I guess a semi-automatic is not uncommon in shooting deer. From what I understand, it's OK because it's not 'fully' automatic. This is the kind of thing you can get a MegloMart in Wisconsin. Plus a nifty orange vest.)

The hunter was a member of the cultural nationality Hmong. This is a group from Asia, mostly Laos. There are about 150,000 Hmong in the US - most settling in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The cause of this bloodshed seems to be racial tensions. Yes, in Wisconsin.

I guess there have been previous clashes between groups of caucasions and the Hmong. This hunter was seen going up in a privately-owned tree stand (a platform used by hunters to spot and kill deer. Like Bambi. And yes, I have friends who hunt and who do it humanely and yada yada but still. Bambi.)

So the landowner warned this Hmong off his property. Then he got on the walkie-talkie to his buddies. That bunch of good ol' boys heard the call and got in their ATV's, headed on up to help the landowner tell this Hmong to get out of their tree fort. Stand. Whatever.

The Hmong Hunter, former US military, says that one of the guys from the ATV shot at/near him, you know, get the point across. So the Hmong hunter took the scope off his weapon and began firing back. Next thing you know, lots of guys dead or dying.

Two Wisconsin Bloggers give their perspective: Just A Girl » Deer Season and Drew at Darn Floor.

I understand that "Guns don't kill People. People kill People". My stance?

People with Guns Kill People Faster, Easier, and More Efficently.

End. Rant.

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Tagged: Corporate, Mommy, Life


I understand all points of view..But the thing is that the racism that is happening should stop. I think that no matter who did what, the race shouldn't be involved in this because its not like every hmong person out there is bad. I think that in the end we'll all find out what really happen instead of taking sides.

Posted by: Ok on January 11, 2005 08:18 PM


I agree with you that self-defense as a rule is limited to responding with a reasonable amount of force. Clearly, chasing down and shooting your assailants in the back does not qualify under self-defense, particularly if the victims were unarmed. Even in war, this could be prosecuted as a crime.

In all likelihood, Vang crossed the line between self-defense and malicious killing soon after he opened fire. His mental state at the time was likely similar to those who committ "crimes of passion". In a different set of circumstances, away from the woods, he probably would've walked away and avoided confrontation. In the heat of the moment, he reacted and then, sadly, over-reacted.

The events that occured on that day are indeed tragic. However, they shed light onto a larger problem: relations between Asians and whites in rural Wisconsin. Even if Vang was aware he was trespassing, a simple conversation between he and the whites could've defused the situation. Instead, the use of racial slurs and the reckless pointing of guns worked to escalate the situation and considerably raise tensions. This goes back to my original point: maybe some of the hunters were Vietnam vets with itchy trigger fingers. Never mind Vang was a member of the US Army and not a Viet Cong.

Posted by: Mark on December 9, 2004 11:19 AM

You made some good points regarding the "reasonable person standard". It's definately possible that in Vang's mind he feared for his life at some point during the contact with the hunters. A reasonable person probably would under those circumstances. However, Vang's fear/defense of his life should have been limited to stopping the threat against him, not executing people.

Example, a group of people shouting racial slurs at the victim. One of the people in the group has a firearm. The individual with the firearm shoots at/near the victim while verbally threatening the victim. The victim has the right to protect his/her self, but only to the extent that will stop the threat. Thus, the victim would more than likely be justified in shooting, in self defense, the subject that initially fired (felonious assault w/ intent to kill)upon him/her.

Self defense DOES NOT extend to chasing, pursuing, or otherwise hunting down and killing the other individuals involved in the above example. A person running from you no longer poses a threat to your safety (unless they're shooting while running away). The main question to the shooting in Wisconsin is not only that of the "reasonable person standard", but also the extent of self defense required for Vang to preserve/defend his own life, and whether or not it was exceeded.

I can't see how, in a case like this, the defendant would EVER be justified in chasing people down as a matter of self defense. Returning fire on the initial assailant, yes. "Finishing" everybody else off, no. A reasonable person would not act in such a manner.

As I said in my last post, a judge and jury will ultimately decide what really happened based on sworn testimony in court. We, as the general public, will probably never know exactly what happened. There are several factors yet to be dealt with
i.e. testing the hunters' gun(s) for powder residue to verify if they were fired at all, and at what distance/location relative to Vang they were fired based on shell casing locations.
-How many hunters actually possessed firearms at the time of the shooting (initially the report said one)
-Where are the locations on the victims where the bullets struck (front of body or back)
-etc, etc, etc.

I don't condone the use of racial slurs nor an assault (verbal or physical) on anyone. There's no doubt that a lot of tension, racial or other, was present in the air that day. But remember, self defense while in fear of your life is one thing. Vindictively and vengefully killing people as a result of built up racial tension is another.

Posted by: MICO on December 9, 2004 10:58 AM


In my criminal law class the first year of law school, we read People v. Goetz, the infamous "subway vigilante" case. In that case, Bernie Goetz shot and wounded four NYC teenagers after one of them came up to Goetz and asked for $5. Goetz believed himself to be in mortal danger, despite the fact that none of them had a gun.

At the heart of the case is whether the "reasonable person standard" should be applied objectively or subjectively. In other words, clearly a reasonable person in Goetz's situation would not have acted in a similar fashion. However, the basis for reasonableness differs for each person and in each set of circumstances. In Goetz's case, he had been assaulted previously on the subway; perhaps in his mind he acted reasonably in the threat of what he believed to be imminent unlawful physical force from the four teenagers.

I'm not a law professor, nor do I wish to engage in an extensive debate about the legal theories of self-defense. I would, however, like to point out that while Vang's actions in the woods seemed complete illogical and outrageous to the casual observer, perhaps his course of action seemed reasonable to him.

People seem to view the facts most favorably to the white victims. Why? Until all the facts have been proven in a court of law, we'll never know who fired first, or to what extent Vang's life was truly threatened. Until the Bush Republicans decide otherwise, Vang has a constitutional right to his day in court. The jury, like the jury that acquitted Goetz, should take into account the basis for Vang's reasonableness, if any. This includes the placement of the weapons, the physical attributes of the hunters, Vang's prior encounters with white hunters in similar situations, etc.

The events that occured on that day are indeed tragic. What is more tragic is a white community in rural Wisconsin seemingly out for blood without all the facts being known.

Posted by: Mark on December 8, 2004 01:45 PM

Clearly you have misunderstood not only my point, but the basis for this whole catastrophe. There is no evidence to show that anyone discharged a firearm at Vang. You can't assume he would have been shot in the back while walking away in order to justify his actions. The fact that the psycho chased people down and shot them to death (he emptied an entire 20 round magazine) is clearly an indication that he acted totally unreasonable in defense of his life. There is NEVER justification for killing someone unless your life or someone else's is in danger.

Yes, he could have and should have turned the other cheek and left. He was illegally occupying the tree stand in the first place, so the hunting group had every right to request that he leave.

Regardless of whether or not racial slurs were used or a gun was pointed at him, Vang had absolutely no justification for killing all those people. I don't know all the facts from the case, but I haven't heard any evidence about the hunting group shooting at or near Vang. It's a case of Vang telling his story of what supposedly happened and the survivors telling theirs. A judge and jury will ultimately decide, based on factual evidence, what occured on that day.

What we do know from the initial reports is this: Vang had time to get down, walk away from the tree stand, remove the scope from the gun, and open fire.

Unless he was being shot at, his life would no longer have been in jeopardy. He chased people down, reacted in cold blood, and murdered them. There is no excuse for such actions.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of All Who Threaten It.

Posted by: MICO on December 8, 2004 10:04 AM

I'm not sure I understand your post. Yes, hunters do not deserve to die simply because they engage in the legal act of hunting wildlife.

But what about a large group of hunters knowingly and willfully assaulting (i.e. putting in reasonable likelihood of imminent bodily harm) a Asian man in the forest, with guns pointed and racial slurs spewing? Was it reasonable for Vang to walk away without getting a bullet in the back?

A Hmong's life in rural Wisconsin is probably worth less to those hunters than that of a elk or deer.

Posted by: Mark on December 7, 2004 10:48 AM

UM Grad / Panga:

Surely, you two aren't suggesting that Vang should've "turned the other cheek" when confronted by a hostile group of armed hunters yelling racial slurs? Do you suggest that he throw down his gun, apologize for trespassing and walk away? Cleary, there was a reasonable threat of imminent bodily harm to Vang. His actions, while not justified, are certainly understandable given the nature of the situation.

In the 1980's, Detroit autoworker Vincent Chin was beat to death by a group of whites frustrated at the inability of Ford and GM to compete with Honda and Toyota.

It would've taken much for those hunters to find an excuse to shoot and kill Vang.

Posted by: mark on December 7, 2004 10:35 AM

This is not an issue of race at all. It is an issue concerning a trespassing psycho with a gun. It doesn't matter what race he is. To even mention his race is to distract people from the real issue: a nutcase with a gun, knowingly on someone else's property, who murders people freely and of his own free will.

Posted by: Mamacita on December 2, 2004 11:10 PM

Elizabeth -- You said that so eloquently. Beautifully written. I completely concur (now that I have vented and feel better)!!

Posted by: Fredette on December 2, 2004 01:58 PM

Here's a fact that probably very few knows about. There weren't only 6 killed, but 7. The unmention 7th was Vang's best friend who was shot in the back and died.

Posted by: one on December 1, 2004 06:52 PM

to the individual who made the comment that those who were murdered "got what they deserved":

you need to re-examine your outlook on things. as a law enforcement officer for the state of michigan i see people everyday that i don't like or agree with. a person trying to commit murder that you, in defense or your own or someone else's life, kill or otherwise subdue, kind of gets what they deserve. hunters engaged in the lawful activity of hunting DO NOT DESERVE TO DIE just because you don't agree with their interests. you should be ashamed of yourself.

Posted by: MICO on November 30, 2004 01:09 PM

I didn't say the guy deserved it. No one deserves to die. That is sad, yes. But if you want to hang out with people who go out and shoot guns -- and hang out in the middle of them -- while they hunt -- don't be surprised if you get hunted.


I have to pick up the ravages of what hunters do in my yard. Each year, I find animals who are mamed, dying and starving because a hunter used a lead pellet which poisons the animals. Many times, however, these hunters FAIL TO KILL THE ANIMAL. Instead they injure it where it has to suffer a brutual cruel death most often of starvation and exposure.

I can't stand having to deal with the ill effects of incompetent, incapable hunters! It tears me a part --so I don't hold much sympathy for them, I just don't.

Posted by: Fredette on November 29, 2004 10:16 AM

Get a Clue people. Racism is all around us. If I killed someone every time I was put down, a lot of people would be dead...more then Chai Vang killed. Don't use ignorance as an excuse.
I'm sure he felt belittled and threatened, but what he did inexcusable. Every one of you who supports that should be ashamed of yourself. BE THE BETTER PERSON. WALK AWAY.

Posted by: panga on November 29, 2004 01:29 AM

Fredette, get a clue. And any of you others who feel like "venting" to the tune of "they deserved it." you're not coldhearted, just extremely ignorant. Its not "tobacco chewing, high school educated" hunters that give this state a bad rep, its people like you fredette. Sure, I'll bet those hunters called Vang some harsh racially insensitive slurs. Shame on them. get over it vang. we've all been treated like sh*t or disrespected at some point in our lives. we don't all shoot the people who disrespected us, and/or chase down the ones that got away and shoot them. It saddens ME that i come from the same state as you.

a wisconsin loving, COLLEGE EDUCATED, white collar, HUNTER

Posted by: UW Grad on November 28, 2004 10:14 PM

As an Asian-American, Vang's story that he was surrounded, threatened, cursed, and shot at by a group of Wisconsin hunters certainly appears credible to me.

When these Bush-voting, Packers-watching, tobacco-chewing, high-school-education, blue-collar workers go into the woods armed with high-powered rifles intent on reenacting the 1968 Tet Offensive -- well, maybe they got what they justly deserved.

And I fail to see how Vang's domestic disturbance call a few years back aggravates his guilt. Seeing as he wasn't even charged, a prosecutor would know better than to use such evidence to impeach the defendant. One such incident hardly leads to the conclusion that he has, or had, "anger issues".

Posted by: Mark on November 26, 2004 03:35 PM

I used to live in MN and I was stunned at how Laotians are viewed by a great majority of the people there. There's a huge racial thing going on and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if one or more of those good ol boys threatened the man that eventually ended their lives.

a tragedy all the way around.

Posted by: ASB on November 24, 2004 10:46 PM

I won't even bother replying to the person who commented above that somehow they deserved to die because they are hunters. While I am not a hunter and am someone who gets ill looking at the deer hides stacked up across the street there is no excuse for anyone to shoot someone else to kill them.

I've been saddened by this "incident" especially since it happened just a couple of hours from me. Our local stations have been covering it like there's no other news to report - well, there really isn't up here ...

Reading Vang's statements tot he police and those statements of one of the injured it sickens me that he chased down 2 people so he could kill them knowing they were unarmed. Then he admitted to shooting another again because he wasn't dead yet.

People are calling for the Hmong community to appologise for this - but why should they take the heat for someone who is in no way representative of their people as a whole? His race is secondary to his actions.

My heart goes out to all of the families - including Vang's.

Posted by: Michele on November 23, 2004 11:54 PM

Call me cold hearted but if you want to hang out with people who shoot guns -- don't be surprised if you become hunted!! You know?

I do feel sorry for the two children that died however. That's sad!! The adults? I don't have sympathy. I just don't.

I have to endure hunting season being from this state. I hate it. I don't have any rights. I can't go to any parks during the entire fall (goose season, etc) from September to December.

If I walk outside during the day, I also face getting shot because I live near wetlands, parks and farms -- all hunting areas! No place is safe near here.

I, too, like Just a Girl have great fear about the stray bullets. About three years ago, a guy was shooting in his own back yard -- which I can see across the lake about 200 yards. My back yard and his intersect via water. He killed several geese in his yard and the local police defended him until I raised holy hell! What about the children for pete's sake???

Luckily I do have a hill protecting half of my home. Thankfully.

More than that, I am sick of my peace being disturbed every frick'n morning at 6:00 a.m. because the hunters can wait to shoot like hell.

Why should the rest of us non-hunters have to endure this sh*t?

Sorry I had to vent :)

Posted by: Fredette on November 23, 2004 09:44 PM

From what I read today, Mr. Vang (the killer) has some anger issues. According to the AP, the police were called to his house at Christmas three years ago, because he was threatening to kill his wife with a gun. (She declined to press charges.) And this year, the cops have been at his house twice for "domestic disputes". Sounds to me like this guy was a tragedy waiting to happen. What I want to know is how a nutjob like this gets a gun permit and a hunting license?

Posted by: notdonnareed on November 23, 2004 07:24 PM